After living through the hottest summer on record in 2022 and a prolonged drought, France is now preparing for a future where extreme weather could become commonplace.
France is preparing for 4°C of global warming by the end of the century as countries fail to deliver on targets that would keep temperatures below Paris Agreement goals.
Environment minister Christophe Béchu told French newspaper JDD that his government was no longer betting on limiting temperatures to 1.5°C or at least well below 2°C.
“We can’t escape the reality of global warming,” Bechu warned in a statement on Sunday.
“So we must prepare concretely for its inevitable effects on our country and our lives.”
A roadmap for climate change adaptation in France
After an exceptionally hot and dry summer in 2022 - the hottest on record since 1900 - the impacts of climate change are clear in France.
On Tuesday 23 May, the government is opening up a public consultation that will last until the end of the summer to try and define a roadmap for climate change adaptation. It will serve as a basis for future policies, making it easier to strengthen them.
It will also be used to come up with the next French climate change adaptation plan which is expected by the end of the year.
The first two versions of this plan, from 2011 and 2018, look at scenarios where global warming will be limited to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels - the Paris Agreement target - and further increases to 3°C.
But according to a UNEP report published in October last year, the world is heading for between 2.4°C to 2.6°C of global warming by 2100 if countries meet their 2030 climate pledges. If policies that are already in place aren’t strengthened, it could reach 2.8°C.
“Unless countries around the world intensify their efforts to cut emissions further still, we are on track for global warming of between +2.8 and +3.2 degrees on average, which means +4 degrees for France because Europe is warming fast,” Bechu said.
France is preparing for a ‘more pessimistic’ scenario
The government is now looking at a “more pessimistic scenario” where warming hits 4C. Bechu added that “in truth, we should call it realistic”.
It could mean years where heatwaves last up to two months and some southern parts of the country have up to 90 nights with tropical temperatures a year.
This degree of warming would also see more extreme rainfall in northern parts of France and longer droughts in the south and west of the country.
Water shortages could also increase, causing pressure on agriculture, and “almost all French glaciers will have disappeared”.